The Waratahs led 14-0 after 10 minutes at altitude in Johannesburg on Saturday, but the Lions – driven on by their powerful pack – came roaring back to seal a spot in the decider for a third year in a row.
Last year’s runners-up outscored the New South Wales franchise by six tries to four and the lively Elton Jantjies scored 14 points with the boot to deny a Waratahs side that battled back to knock the Highlanders out at the quarter-final stage last weekend.
Flanker Smith and hooker Marx were outstanding, scoring a try in each half for a Lions side that overpowered Daryl Gibson’s team in the second period and will face the defending champions at AMI Stadium next Saturday.
— Super Rugby (@SuperRugby) July 28, 2018
It had all started so well for the Waratahs, flanker Ned Hanigan powering his way over when the Lions were caught short of numbers wide on the left and the clinical Israel Folau surged through to go under the posts just four minutes later.
The Lions burst into life after a slow start, the excellent Smith taking advantage of poor defending to wriggle his way through and touch down, then Aphiwe Dyantyi conjured up a brilliant 80-metre solo score before Marx touched down to put them in front for the first time.
Tom Robertson brought the Waratahs level at the break with a try just before the interval, which Bernard Foley was unable to convert, but the Lions had plenty in the tank to take control in the second half.
Jantjies’ penalty put them back in the lead and Marx crossed again following a driving maul with Damien Fitzpatrick in the sin bin and the magnificent Smith added his second try.
Courtnall Skosan put the icing on the cake with another five-pointer right at the end after Jake Gordon evaded a couple of defenders to score a fourth try for a Waratahs side that went down fighting.
Sign up to our mailing list here and we’ll keep you up to the minute with weekly updates from the world of rugby.